A question of complexity: measuring the maturity of online enquiry communities

Grégoire Burel, Yulan He

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


Online enquiry communities such as Question Answering (Q&A) websites allow people to seek answers to all kind of questions. With the growing popularity of such platforms, it is important for community managers to constantly monitor the performance of their communities. Although different metrics have been proposed for tracking the evolution of such communities, maturity, the process in which communities become more topic proficient over time, has been largely ignored despite its potential to help in identifying robust communities. In this paper, we interpret community maturity as the proportion of complex questions in a community at a given time. We use the Server Fault (SF) community, a Question Answering (Q&A) community of system administrators, as our case study and perform analysis on question complexity, the level of expertise required to answer a question. We show that question complexity depends on both the length of involvement and the level of contributions of the users who post questions within their community. We extract features relating to askers, answerers, questions and answers, and analyse which features are strongly correlated with question complexity. Although our findings highlight the difficulty of automatically identifying question complexity, we found that complexity is more influenced by both the topical focus and the length of community involvement of askers. Following the identification of question complexity, we define a measure of maturity and analyse the evolution of different topical communities. Our results show that different topical communities show different maturity patterns. Some communities show a high maturity at the beginning while others exhibit slow maturity rate.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 24th ACM conference on hypertext and social media, HT '13
Place of PublicationNew York, NY (US)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-1967-6
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2013
Event24th ACM conference on Hypertext and social media - Paris, France
Duration: 1 May 20133 May 2013


Conference24th ACM conference on Hypertext and social media
Abbreviated titleHypertext 2013


  • community maturity
  • question answering
  • question complexity
  • social semantic web


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